On top of being billed as the one of the most anticipated series in the 2023 VCT Americas League’s Super Week, there was an air of uncertainty surrounding the match between LOUD and Sentinels. Shortly after the conclusion of Week 3, Sentinels announced the removal of Don “SyykoNT” Muir as head coach and the substitution of Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen for Tyson “TenZ” Ngo. That meant Sentinels faced LOUD, who came into the series as the only undefeated team in the league, as an entirely different team
For LOUD, Sentinels’ sudden changes didn’t present them with any favors either. Playing against a new lineup with a new coach who would possibly offer a new tactical direction meant a new challenge for the reigning world champions, but with some astute observation and adaptation as described by LOUD head coach Daniel "fRoD" Montaner, the Brazilian team navigated past a stubborn Sentinels side by beating them 2-1 to continue their perfect streak for another day.
Following LOUD’s series against Sentinels, fRoD spoke to BLIX.GG for an interview on defeating the North American side, how his team worked around Sentinel’s moves in the lead-up to the affair, Erick "aspas" Santos’ exceptional performance so far this season, and more.
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: Congrats on beating Sentinels today. It was a pretty tough one given that you lost in Map 1 before turning the series in the two ensuing maps. Tell us your initial thoughts of your team defeating Sentinels after the match that transpired in the way that it did.
Daniel "fRoD" Montaner: We're really happy with the victory today. Sentinels is a team full of extremely talented individual players. We didn't really have any information on them simply because of all the changes that have been going on, but we do respect them highly and know that they're a very talented team.
Ultimately, I'm just really happy with how we, as a team, were able to adapt and call a bunch of different plays. I'm really happy with our team's resilience regardless of what happened during the game and regardless of the first map as well. I'm just really proud of the boys and all the effort that they're putting in especially when our backs are against the walls.
BLIX: On the subject of preparing for Sentinels, the team had to go through major changes with the addition of Marved for TenZ and the removal of SyykoNT as head coach. In preparing for this series, what were the things that you wanted your team to focus on?
fRoD: Kind of like you said, given all the changes, one of our biggest focuses was just on ourselves and making sure that we're tactically sound and that we have a good game plan going into it as well as multiple game plans in a way depending on what they play. The only thing that we had an idea was that they were gonna go back to their old roles, but every person plays roles and agents differently.
So for us, it was just really making sure that we're prepared for anything against a very good team with a lot of talent and a good coaching staff. Credit to them for coming up with a good game plan against us but I'm also really proud of the boys for having an open mind regardless of what they did. For us, it was just a really good outcome as far as adapting and continuing to evolve as a team but also while we're playing.
BLIX: Talking about the series, the team didn't start well by losing in Pearl, but you guys managed to turn it around in Haven and Ascent. How did you help the team rebound from losing in Pearl and then taking the series by winning in Haven and Ascent?
fRoD: Well, I think for us, we had a pretty good game plan going into it. We understand how to play against certain teams when they're playing certain compositions and I think that with some of the strategies that we have, we weren't really focused so much of it.
We lacked a small bit of discipline in some situations, but ultimately, I'm just really happy with how we were able to adapt and take the timeouts while the matches are live to make sure that we're discussing all the variations and possibilities. I'm also happy that, regardless of the score or if we're down one map or not, we continue to keep focused and to pull through a win here.
On aspas’ form in the Americas League
BLIX: Among your players, aspas continues to shine as not just one of the best duelists in this league but also one of the best players in this league as well. One might say that he's been playing as one of the best in the world. How have you seen aspas' performance not just in this series against Sentinels but throughout this entire season?
fRoD: I always thought that aspas is one of the most talented players in the world just from his skill set. His ability to play Jett, OP, and also have a lot of impact with rifles makes him probably one of the best Jett riflers in the game as well, probably alongside Derke. One of my biggest things was to really focus a lot on the individuals. Yeah, I provide the tactics in pistol rounds and a bunch of different stuff, but something that's a big part of my job is evolving each player individually especially cauanzin and tuyz since they're the new guys and tuyz was changing roles.
In the past, when I used to play Counter-Strike, I was an AWPer and one of the best snipers out there so I've been able to really have a lot of conversations with aspas on how to evolve his game, especially on the defensive side. I'm really proud of the way he's taken in some criticism but also how he's evolved as a player and making sure that he's continuing to evolve his game, work hard, and set the tone.
I'm really happy with him but also with all the boys because there's a lot of stuff that we need to do as a team to get better, but at the same time, working on the individual is something that's very important for me as well. Sometimes, some lessons have to be catered to the individual given the roles and the weapons that they play. I'm just really happy with how he's evolved as a player and taking this role to another level.
Working with the rest of LOUD
BLIX: You alluded to focusing on the individual and making sure each player can perform at their best at every match if possible. You've worked in NA up until joining LOUD for this season. From the moment you stepped into LOUD, how has it been working with this team which consists of young talent and reigning world champions?
fRoD: I was with LOUD as an analyst or assistant coach—however you want to call it—at Champs so I was able to get a bit of an introduction to them and provide a lot of tactics, and after Champs, they decided to make me the head coach. Ever since then, we've just been working really hard not only on the FPS concepts (teamwork and discipline) but also on the individual level. It's my job, especially with Saadhak, to evolve our strategies, tactics, compositions—all that.
But at the same time, working with individuals is an absolute pleasure for me because I have such great experience in FPS and I had some really good teammates along my journey. I’m just being able to teach these guys the tricks that either I or some of my old teammates had and I think these guys are responding very well.
That's probably one of the best parts of my job because doing the tactics and doing everything is more of a team thing, and yeah, I can work on evolving the team, but ultimately, if we continue to do that but also sharpen the tools individually, we're going to be a very good team. I'm really focused on that part of my job whether it is before or after practice, doing VOD reviews as a team, or VOD reviewing as individuals.
There's a lot of work that goes into making sure everyone's on the same page, but everyone's also evolving their game, especially guys like aspas and even someone like tuyz. It was a lot of time and effort to make sure these guys are understanding how to play those roles at a high level and a lot of back-and-forth conversations to make sure we're trying to continue to evolve.
BLIX: It's not just LOUD that is playing well in the Americas League as a team from Brazil. You also have FURIA and MIBR holding their own against the rest of the competition. It sort of gives the notion that the Brazilian teams are playing much better than the other teams from North and Latin America. From your perspective, what makes the Brazilian teams play so well so far this season against the rest of the league?
fRoD: I think what makes the Brazilian and even Latin American teams really strong in general is the amount of passion that we have. I'm Cuban so I guess I could say that even though I'm not Brazilian, but I think the desire, to want to win and to show out for your family and friends makes us understand that we play for something much bigger than ourselves. I'm just very excited and happy for all the Brazilian teams who are really showcasing their talent at the global stage.
Not all teams can qualify to some tournaments in the past, but I'm just happy that the scene in general has improved a lot. We spent a lot of our time in Brazil playing against Brazilian teams so we had a feeling that everyone was going to show out so it's kind of like the "iron sharpens iron" type of thing. I think everyone in that region is focused so hard on winning and we want to practice very hard so we spent a lot of time in the lab just trying to come up with stuff and practicing by a really crazy amount.
I think that Brazil is really showing not only how much raw skill they have, but also the tactical depth that they provide to the game as well. Overall, I'm really happy to see the Latin American and Brazilian scene taking it to another level.
Looking at Challengers Brazil
BLIX: About you practicing and scrimming against the other Brazilian teams outside of the Americas League, which team or individual has given you the biggest impression so far?
fRoD: I wouldn't say that I've been surprised with how high the skill is of other teams like Leviatan, MIBR, and FURIA because we kind of understand that. If anything, I'm probably a lot more surprised with how strong the Brazilian Challengers scene is because those are also other teams that we scrim a lot because it doesn't make sense to scrim franchise teams 24/7, right? We've scrimmed a lot of the challengers teams like The Union, RED Canids, Keyd Stars, and 00 Nation.
I think they're all extremely talented and they provide us with a lot of assistance in the form of good-quality practice. I'm really excited to see the Challengers scene in Brazil really evolve because it has a lot of talent that definitely deserves to be in franchising, but there are only so many spots available, right?
I really think the Challengers scene, especially with the guys over at The Union, are doing very well. They won the last split and they've already started off well in the second split with a lot of individual talent. They're tactically sound and they take practice very seriously.